One Step At A Time: Renewable energy only serves as one step towards greener earth

By Sierra Steen

We are a selfish nation. We think about what will satisfy us now, and what we can do to achieve that as quickly as possible, even at a cost. What about our future? Not even just our future per se, but the future of our children and their children, of the animals and of the world.

According to the American Enterprise Institute, the United States is accountable for 80 percent of the world’s fossil fuels being consumed every year. This is an alarmingly high number, and it is unsustainable.

Our current economy, lifestyles, habits and our everyday lives run on fossil energy — coal, oil and natural gas. The extraction, transportation, processing and burning/usage of these fuels is doing tremendous damage not only to people, but the biosphere (essentially the zone where life resides on Earth), reducing options for future generations — this means us.

What a lot of people don’t realize is that this isn’t a problem that we can continue to push off for future generations. This is something already badly affecting us, and if we do not act now, it’s only going to get worse.

We are accepting to continue the lives we live even though there is damage all around us. There is something extremely wrong with this high consumption lifestyle that we are living. With other issues in history, most of the time we did not try to find replacements, instead judging that things are simply not acceptable and eliminating it. In our case, finding a replacement for fossil energy is not enough. We need to realize that it’s the way that we live that needs to change.

As citizens, we need to do as much as we possibly can to support renewable energy and to combat global warming, which is not a scare but instead a reality we have to address. We need to begin by understanding our situation and our lifestyles.

Kamyar Enshayan, the University of Northern Iowa’s Center For Energy and Environmental Education’s director, is extremely passionate about renewable energy and the impact that humans have on the world. Change doesn’t happen dramatically or on a worldwide scale, though. It’s important that we understand that we can make an impact starting right in our own homes and towns.

“Yes, renewable energy actually makes a difference, but we have to let go of fossil energy and change our wasteful ways. We must begin by understanding our situation and our lifestyle. It is like going from unlimited credit card use to living within our means,” Enshayan said.

Living within our means as Enshayan tells us is not as complicated as it sounds.

“Examine the ways you use energy. Try for less consumption, less travel and less wasteful ways. Enjoy walking, biking and amusing yourself without going places and eating in restaurants so much. Go for a hike, start a garden, create a compost pile, dry clothes on a line. Once these become normal daily habits, you might consider more worldly impactful changes.”

These harder-hitting changes can include involvement in the community and electing people who are committed to moving away from fossil energy.

Renewable energy, although a wonderful step in helping to keep the earth clean and healthy, can not sustain our lifestyles on its own. According to CFU’s website, if 100% percent of our energy was switched to wind-powered, there would be no energy when the air is still. The goal amount of energy being produced by wind is 20 percent, which is the plan that the U.S. Department of Energy is trying to implement by 2030. CFU is also now beginning to sell solar panels, with more information on their website about a wait list and pricing.

Enshayan said that we need to take it further than simply converting to renewable energy. “For example, it is a cold winter night in Iowa. It is 10 below. You have all of the windows open and you wonder why your furnace cannot keep up, so you ask, ‘Would be nice to have all renewable energy to solve this problem?’ No. Close your windows, insulate your house, turn off the lights that were left on unnecessarily.”

It is not so much that we completely give up everything that we as humans do that slowly damage this earth. As a selfish race of beings, we need to instead begin to take steps in order to teach and help future generations how to take care of it and appreciate it. Renewable energy is fantastic, but it is not the complete solution. We need to set our greed aside and take action right in our own backyards in order to make this planet a livable one for generations to come.

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